Brian Viner: 'When one ferret was dropped, there was panic: "Get your bike clips on!"'

Home And Away

Share
Related Topics

Ferret-racing was a new one on me until our friend Nancy invited us to The Pheasant, a pub near Upton upon Severn, the Friday before last. The place was packed out, as if for the ferret equivalent of the Grand National, and there was a fleeting panic when one of the little critters was dropped by his owner before the first race. "Get your bike clips on!" cried a fellow with immensely bushy eyebrows. Happily, the loose ferret was retrieved before I had to decide whether the bushy-eyebrowed man was joking.

There were four heats, with four ferrets contesting each heat, followed by two semi-finals and a final. Rather reminiscent of the Olympics, in that sense, if in no other. The idea was that each ferret was auctioned before the heats, so that you could own one for the evening. We paid £23 for a fine-looking specimen called Piglet, who was making his racing debut, although the master of ceremonies assured us that he had been trained intensively beside the hard shoulder of the M5.

My 10-year-old son Jacob had wanted us to bid for Tizzi, in lane three, but Jane and I reckoned that we had spotted Tizzi yawning, not an indication of a ferret primed for glory.

The heats started with all the ferrets being released into a long, drainpipe, with a saucer of something appetising at the other end, and some wire mesh in the middle so you could see how your ferret was faring at halfway stage. I should add that all the competitors seemed to be enjoying themselves at least as much as the assembled human beings were. I should also add that the old dictum about dog owners starting to look like their pets applies, in some instances, and mentioning no names, to ferret owners.

Anyway, almost inevitably, Piglet did about as badly in the drainpipe as a real piglet would have done, while Tizzi shot through in about five seconds flat. If I get to the Cheltenham Festival this year, I'll have to take Jacob with me. He has an unerring nose for a winner, because Tizzi cruised through the semi-final, beating Blodwyn, Snoozy and Sam, and then the final as well, securing £50 for his delighted owners. Apart from the prize money, and the winnings paid out by what was grandly called the tote, the proceeds of the evening went to the restoration of the lychgate at the local church. I don't know where the Archbishop of Canterbury stands on ferret-racing, but I'm sure he would have approved, had he been there. And now that I think about it, there was something vaguely familiar about the fellow with the bushy eyebrows.

My new book came out last week. It is a kind of memoir about growing up in front of the telly in the 1970s, and it has had a fair amount of publicity. Yesterday, I even got to chat about it on the BBC Breakfast sofa, having first been dusted with make-up, all of which made me feel cosmopolitan and a long way from home. But as I was leaving, the programme's editor came to tell me that she grew up not half a mile from where I now live in rural north Herefordshire, and she'd had a weekend job working for the people we bought our house from, cleaning their holiday cottages, two of which are now ours.

It was all very disorientating, and reminiscent of a literary-awards evening I attended in one of London's great function rooms, a year or two ago. I chatted to the rather beautiful woman next to me, who seemed so poised and such a socialite that I felt more than ever like the hick I have become. When she said that she grew up a long way west, I assumed that she meant Hammersmith, or possibly even Barnes, but it turned out to have been a tied cottage on the Welsh border.

As for my book, I was also a guest yesterday on the Steve Wright show on BBC Radio 2, and shared with him my favourite detail of all those I unearthed while researching 1970s telly, that there was a minor character in the notoriously racy drama, Bouquet of Barbed Wire, who was decidedly highly sexed, and that his name, in spookily close anticipation of tabloid fodder 30 years later, was Sven Erickson.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron faces the press as he arrives in Brussels for the EU leaders summit on Thursday reuters  

On the Tusk of a dilemma: Cameron's latest EU renegotiation foe

Andrew Grice
John Profumo and his wife Valerie Robson in 1959  

Stephen Ward’s trial was disgraceful. There can be no justification for it

Geoffrey Robertson QC
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture